With the onset of Autumn/Winter, recent seasons have seen an appropriate return to protection. Whether a comment upon oh-so-terrible fiscal woes, the pure and simple non-shorts appropriate weather or an indication of the need for greater precaution, first studs and spikes, leather and base brutality stomped defiantly down the catwalks, and now - where Spring/Summer hinted - Autumn/Winter has fully committed to out and out militarism. From Paris to London, New York to Milan, flight jackets and canvas parkas, flak pockets and boiler suits, have reigned supreme. Dsquared2 and Jean Paul Gaultier decided that men must fight, their shows literal bloodbaths of boxing, of out and out masculinity, and everyone else has followed, broaching protection and combat for these modern marauders.
At their first London Fashion Week show proper Jaiden RVA James sent hard edged gimps down the catwalks, all bondage and Kiss make-up. But amongst the high heels, leather skirts, ball gags and the smell and chafe of leather in the air, mingled a dichotomy. Are these men empowered or disempowered, the dominators or the dominated in a comment regarding the fetishization of men and masculinity? Rather then an indication of the surface fragility that characterised Spring/Summer - the wispy sheers and chiffons, Miuccia Prada and Italo Zucchelli's re-interpretation of mesh, James Long and Blaak Homme's diaphonous knits - the Fall/Winter shows have delved deeper, broaching a new more cerebral tenderness. Nestling alongside the leathers and waxed canvas, the utility and fetish wear, an onslaught of shearling, of astrakhan and fur, of towelling at Christopher Shannon, of chunky channel corduroy at James Long and velvet covered machine guns at Katie Eary, have forged a trope of survival blanket protection alongside combat, of men unafraid to withdraw and shelter.
This redistribution of masculinity and the notion of unabashed protection rather than posturing manifested itself most notably at JW Anderson. For a long time questioning the established precepts of menswear and masculinity with skirts and full length bustles, playing off conceits of basketball rude boys against masai inspired beaded skirts and long line silk shirts for Spring/Summer, Jonathan turned his attention to the co-existence of aggression and fragility for Fall/Winter. Entitled Saints and Assassins, Jonathan dived into the truest dichotomy, of bullish, defiant punks and sensitive teenage disenchantment.
A new skewed Romanticism, eschewing the Spandau Ballet precepts in a more organic return to Wordsworth's connection to the outdoors and a general, to put it bluntly, unashamed romance - a bruised boy in love with girls or boys or both. If studded belts and boots, collars and patchwork jeans, picnic blanket plaid jackets and vests spoke of Punkish disenchantment, then twine laced long johns exuding a disjointed scarecrow fragility, hearts bursting from t-shirts and as badges and accompanied by the phrase 'Mizpah' (a reference to the emotional bond between two people separated by either physicality or death), put forward the boy who wears his heart on his sleeve.
The duality of emotion and outdoorsy, traditionally masculine pursuits was confirmed by the use of flora and fauna within the show. Amnesia roses were stuffed bursting to the brim in bloom from rucksacks, dropping to the catwalk at every step, and tangled at tongue and lace on bulky hiking boots, eloquently elucidating the romantic spirit.
Inspired by the floral friezes of Albert Duerer, the blooms were also redolent of Morrissey at his romantic peak, all Gladioli and Daffodil held resolutely aloft or falling from pocket or lapel. The paradigmatic poster boy of youthful, wounded disaffection and an eternal spokesman for disenfranchised youth, Morrissey once stated “I really like the idea of the male voice being quite vulnerable, of it being taken and slightly manipulated, rather than there being always this heavy machismo thing that just bored everybody”. Much like Morrissey created a new man unafraid to confront his emotions and underlying fragility, and along the way establishing a love all or no one stance, JW Anderson continues in this tradition, re-igniting a vital, stifled emotion.